‘I find that taking ten minutes to lie down and do some Alexander Technique is worth an hour of sleep.’
Jim Stewart, Editor, Chicago Hope
Film editors can benefit greatly from exploring the Alexander Technique in order to learn how to be more comfortable, reduce stress, prevent back problems, and increase confidence, productivity, endurance, and self awareness.
When we visited Jim Stewart in his editing room at “Chicago Hope” on the 20th Century Fox lot we were struck by the reality of an editor’s environment: the darkened room, the close space, and the predominance of the computer screen. Staring at the visual image on the editing screen is an integral part of an editor’s day but in doing their job many editors, like Stewart, become so engrossed in the images that they have to be reminded to sometimes look away, to stand up, to move around, to take a break out of doors — actions which help them stay alert. Stewart shared his perceptions of his profession with us and how studying the Alexander Technique has helped him to deal with the physical demands of it.
As a film editor, it is easy to get wrapped up with the monitor and be totally involved with your head and your heart but not with your body. Through the Alexander Technique, I’ve learned how to pay attention to what I’m doing. Now, I’ll catch myself sitting in an uncomfortable position; in the past, I wouldn’t have caught myself. Editing is a physically demanding occupation even though it doesn’t appear to be. The hardest part of editing is maintaining concentration for long periods of time. Then, there’s the stress – deadlines, tension, and the tired eyes and stiff shoulders that come from those hours of hunching over the computer keyboard.
While dealing with the demands of the job, Stewart began studying the Alexander Technique. Now he uses the skills he acquired and finds he has more energy and better powers of concentration:
I use my body better. I take breaks, do some breathing. I move around a lot more now than I used to. I change positions. I stand up and sit down again. When I work long hours and don’t get enough sleep, I find that taking ten minutes to lie down and do some Alexander Technique is worth as an hour of sleep. Awareness is one of the basic things about the Alexander Technique — awareness of what your mind is doing with your body. It is not so much what you do with your body but the subtle thoughts that you have about your body. Part of it is being aware, and then stopping bad habits. It allows me to stay more flexible — to be looser — so that energy can flow rather than be blocked by tension.
Using the Alexander Technique has also enhanced Stewart’s visual skills as an editor:
It has helped me to better distinguish performances. I can now see if an actor is using his body well for the character and the role. It helps me to choose the best take.
Jim Stewart, currently one of the editors of “Chicago Hope,” graduated from NYU film school and from AFI. As an editor he has worked on episodic TV, feature films and documentaries. His television credits include “The Wonder Years”, Fox TV’s movie “Rise and Walk: The Dennis Byrd Story,” and the PBS American Playhouse production “Miss Lonelyhearts.” He edited the independent feature “Powwow Highway” and two documentaries that were nominated for Oscars: “Death on the Job, 1991” and “Crack USA/County Under Siege, 1989.”